Ancient history

The Inquisition or the Witch Hunt

Ecclesiastical context

Catholicism being recognized as the only and true religion in the world, the Church arrogates to itself the right to make the law according to a certain interpretation of the New Testament:Jews, heretics, reformed and alleged witches are condemned to be burned alive in the public square. , before the priests uttering the word of God as justification for such practices. A real fanaticism seizes them and pushes them to eradicate Evil in an absolute and definitive way. If the noble families go through exorcism, the people most often see themselves ending up at the stake, a punishment found in the Justinian Code:"If someone does some harm to another by spell or witchcraft, he will be dead and even condemned to the stake. The quest for the Devil degenerates and arouses mistrust in everyone, even denouncing anyone suspected of having concluded a pact with the devil. Magicians and witches emerge from all quarters and suffer the fate destined for them in the book of Revelation:"As for the cowards, the infidels, the abominable beings, the murderers, the immoral people, those who practice magic , to idol worshipers and to all liars, their place will be in the flaming sulfur lake, which is the second death. [1] (...) [A]out of the city, the abominable beings, those who practice magic, immoral people, murderers, idol worshipers and all those who love and practice lies! » [2]

Inquisition:a fight against witchcraft?

In a society exclusively ruled by the Roman Church, with the obligation to go and listen to the Latin Mass without understanding its meaning, some seek to break away from such an influence. One extreme leads to another - namely turning away from Good to offer oneself to Evil - and oppression breeds opponents. Although these opponents remain underground for fear of reprisals, as was the case with the Cathars [3], the Church is responsible for raising the problem and prosecuting those it commonly calls heretics.
The inquisition is born with the terror of witchcraft. A form of superstition is set up, condemning many individuals often guilty of nothing, at least not of the accusations of witchcraft that are brought to them. The Inquisition mainly hunts down enchanters, owners of books, amulets, formulas or suspicious objects, and any other form of unusual attitudes. Children are also blamed for having made a pact with the devil, because witchcraft is considered hereditary (but the procedure prohibits the killing of children who have not reached the age of puberty).

Distrust and denunciation

At a time when beliefs rule the world, mistrust often leads to false beliefs about certain people, and the victims of witchcraft are most often women. The healers of the villages are targeted:they are attributed with all kinds of misdeeds, evil practices and the use of spells in order to heal the sick they treat. The danger lies in the idea that if these women can heal, then they are also capable of injuring and even killing. Any unusual fact or appearance is likely to drag the suspect to the stake. The job is also a reason for guilt, as well as the status of foreigner. We are entering an era where the most mundane behavior in daily life can lead to the most serious accusations. For centuries, this omnipresent distrust will lead to a series of denunciations for witchcraft.

The mark of the devil

The "mark of the devil" would be a trace produced by the hand of the Devil, symbolizing a pact with the latter and betraying his presence:engraved until the blood with the help of a claw, it can represent animals such as a spider or a toad. This mark may be the only evidence of evil practices, and this is the reason why experts look for it carefully during interrogation. It is a dead part of the demonized body. Indeed, it is no longer guided by the soul and therefore becomes insensitive to pain. The alleged witch no longer belongs to herself:her new master is Satan and he promises to help her whenever she calls on him. She is damned.

The trial that hides the torture

The inquisition is also the art of torture:once denounced and then arrested, the suspect responds to an interrogation. Inquisitors often use various tortures to make suspects confess. The possibility of having a lawyer is offered to the suspect, especially when it comes to a woman, supposedly insufficiently intelligent to defend herself. But this does not convince Justice, and some prisoners kill themselves before the sentence falls.
Most often, after arrest and imprisonment, torture makes it possible to extract a confession from the victim, which condemns him to death and leads him to execution. During the trial, we dig, we try to understand what witchcraft really is, we try to describe, to define theological problems following the answers of the accused; problems mainly focused on Satan or Evil. The inquisitorial procedure applied by most courts and tribunals in Western Europe is based on the principles of Roman law, inherited from the Monumental Code of the Emperor Justinian. These principles require the testimony of the accused and witnesses in the first place. Then the investigators ensure the relevance of the elements given until they find proof, most often the confession of the accused. The trial itself follows the interrogations and expertise of the bodies of the alleged witches, as well as their animals if they have any. Once there is solid proof of their guilt, the suspects go before the judges on whom their release or conviction depends.

The stake and other penalties

The sentence falls at the end of the trial:the users of magic or witchcraft are hanged or burned. The last witches victims of the inquisition will be strangled before going to the stake in order to alleviate their suffering. While most witches are publicly executed, other penalties exist for the use of magical practices, such as excommunication, imprisonment, whipping, or confiscation of property. But let us remember the Justinian code:"If someone has done any wrong to another by spell or witchcraft, he will be punished with death and even condemned to the stake". This is the extreme and most common sentence for witchcraft:the most painful punishment is reserved for the followers of Evil.

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